WJEC AS Psychology PY1 - Cognitive Approach

Notes for the Cognitive Approach including: assumptions, theory, therapy, methodology, 2 strengths and 2 weaknesses.

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Cognitive Approach - Assumptions

Assumption 1 - behaviour can be explained in terms of internal processes

- humans absorb surroundings = like mobile information processors

- that internal mental representations of the world (schemas) can influence mental processes

- for example: crime may have been committed; eye witness testimony, someone has a schema of a criminal (hoodie wear) and may remember the criminial wearing a hoodie even if they were - influencing and distorting memory


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Cognitive Approach - Assumption 2

Assumption 2 - humans can be compared to a computer

  • 'The Computer Analogy' suggest that humans experience inputs that are processed to create an output, like computers; mind = hardware; cognitive processing = software
  • example: multi store model or memory


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Cognitive Approach - Theory

Theory - Attribution Theory


In exam, do example of failing an exam and linking to 4 combinations

Attribution Biases:

  • Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE): overemphasise character = de-emphasise situation
  • Self-serving bias: internal attribution = success; external attributions = failure
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Cognitive Approach - Therapy

Therapy - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

REMEMBER LINKING PARA - changing thoughts to change emotions

CBT works: cognitively: replacing negative thoughts with more realistic thoughts; behaviourally: encouraging to behave in new ways they may have avoided because of previous negative thoughts


Process of CBT: 1) make client aware of impact of negative thoughts; 2) client identifies negative thoughts (thought catching/keeping diary); 3) challenge negative thoughts (reality testing, role playing, cognitive rehearsal); 4) replace faulty thoughts with positive ones; 5) change behaviour with new thoughts (set new goals)

Research Evidence: Clark et al (1999) 6 - 7 one hour sessions = 90% effective in panic disorder patients; Williams (1992) rapid as drugs, more effective long term

Advantages: offers choice to shape future, encourages personal skills to promote new ways of thinking; gain a sense of control; it works!

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Cognitive Approach - Methodology

Methodology of the Cognitive Approach - Cog. Lab Experiments and Case Studies of Brain Damaged Patients

Cognitive Lab Experiments: (example: Loftus + Palmer 1974); experiments manipulate IV (environmental stimuli) to measure the change in DV (behavioural response) to infer a mental process has occurred; 

  • Advantages: control of IV and strict measurement of DV as well as extraneous variables - cause and effect relationship can be established accurately; quantitative data generated - objective - easier to analyse
  • Disadvantages: low ecological validity - may not react the same, more artificial, (example link: not in a real court); inferring mental processes is speculative

Case Studies of Brain Damaged Patients: (example: Corkin 1968; patient HM); indepth study through interview, observation; if someone has a damaged part of the body after a brain injury = that part of the brain is responsible for that particular part of the body

  •  Advantages: ethical - studying before and after effects of brain damage
  • Disadvantages: idiographic - low population validity; difficult to generalise
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Cognitive Apparoach - Strengths

Strengths of the Cognitive Approach

Strength 1: CBT (Therapy)

Explain, Elaborate + Example: replace faulty thoughts with realistic thoughts; can treat depression, phobias and OCD; assumes faulty thoughts = responsible for disorders; strength because 1) non-invasive; 2) no risk of infection compared to psychosurgery; 3) no side effects like drugs; 4) short period of time; example: Clarke et al (1999) 90% effective in less than 10 sessions

Strength 2: Lab Experiments

Explain, Elaborate + Example: studied in highly controlled environment; IV and DV's are controlled and cause+effect relationship established; strength because 1) hypotheses can be tested, results gathered and so hypotheses can be accepted or rejected; example: Loftus and Palmar (1974)

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Cognitive Approach - Weaknesses

Weaknesses of the Cognitive Approach

Weakness 1: Lab Experiments

Explain, Elaborate + Example: weakness because 1) unrealistic; 2) low ecological validity (can't be generalised to the real world; example: Loftus + Palmer (1974) - can't be generalised to realistic eye witness testimony as situation is completely different)

Weakness 2: Mechanistic Approach (Reductionist)

Explain, Elaborate + Example: computer analogy means humans thoughts similar to machine and explanation for behaviour 'reduced' to similar components; weakness because 1) many differences between machine and human; 2) ignorance of influence of emotion and society - humans are not mechanistic; example: computer doesn't alter behaviour because it is worried or bored unlike humans

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Becky Taylor-Gill


would be better if the mp3 was an actual person because its hard to listen to

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